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Joanna Leach (Piano)

Born: England

Joanna Leach is an English pianist, specialising in square pianos. Her musical talent was perhaps inherited from her American family on her mother's side. Her Grandmother, Bessie Krause was a pupil of Leschetizky in Vienna. He thought so highly of her playing, that he asked her to demonstrate some Chopin to one of her fellow students, Benno Moiseiwitsch. Although a highly accomplished pianist, she was not allowed to perform in public since in those days it was not acceptable for a 'lady' to appear on the stage. During her married life she lived in Berlin before the build-up to World War I; the family then moved to London. Throughout this time she maintained her performing skills, practising regularly eight hours a day - her 'performances' restricted to groups of friends, among whom were Conrad Ansorge and Grieg.

Joanna Leach's early studies were with Wynn-Wernick, a fine teacher who had studied with Teichmuller in Leipzig before World War I. He laid particular emphasis on an expressive and delicate style of playing, teaching the flexibility, that combined with precise finger control, was to prove so invaluable when it came to performing on early pianos with their light action. Like her grandmother, she studied in Vienna; her teacher there was Josef Dichler. She returned to England and continued her studies with Peter Katin. Although he had a high regard for her talent as an concert pianist, her prospects were hampered by problematic domestic situations that severely limited any career opportunities. She gave recitals at the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, St. John's Smith Square and also at the Franz Liszt Academy Budapest both as soloist and chamber musician. These recitals were well received by critics: "Her performance of the big A minor Rhapsody No.13 was absolutely magnificent and a high-light of the evening.", wrote Keith Fagin, the discographer of the Liszt Society. Joanna eventually found happiness in her marriage to David Turner, who encouraged her to pursue her musical aspirations. Together they set up D & J Recording Limited as a classical recording company in 1988.

Joanna Leach's interest in authentic period pianos began when she was introduced to Andrew Lancaster, an expert on restoration of early pianos. He restored a Clementi square piano, which she had inherited from her mother. She became increasingly fascinated with playing music of their period on these original instruments and it was due to her friendship with Andrew that it was possible to record a number of instruments that he had restored for the first Athene release - Three Square, John Field Nocturnes. Joanna's own Stodart was used along with a D'Almaine and a Broadwood; the latter belonging to Nicholas Chisholm, Headmaster of the Yehudi Menuhin School.

The Athene label was launched in 1991 with Three Square, a recording of the John Field Nocturnes played on three different period square pianos. The disc was well received by critics among whom, Bryce Morrison of Gramophone wrote: "She most persuasively suggests an intimacy and transparency of sound hard to parallel on more modern brilliant and forceful instruments… Any singer on hearing these performances would surely congratulate Leach on her 'vocal' line, so richly and delicately embellished." Her collection currently comprises four beautifully restored square pianos dating from 1787-1832. Although Joanna still plays on the modern piano, she prefers to give recitals on the square piano in settings such as country houses where the intimate sound of the instrument is best appreciated.

"There is no more convincing fortepiano recital than this.Fine performances throughout, and excellent recording. A fascinating way of discovering what the modern piano’s ancestors could do best." - Penguin Good CD Guide
"
… the result is deceptively seductive and engrossing… " - Hi-Fi World
"
Leach plays cleanly and affectingly… It is to her credit that there is no wide gulf between her playing and these fixtures of the modern virtuoso stage... Very fine performances of Haydn keyboard music on attractive instruments" - Paul Shoemaker (Musicweb)

Source: Divine Art Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2008)

Joanna Leach: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

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Joanna Leach, Piano (Divine Art)

 

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Last update: ýJuly 7, 2011 ý14:07:57